My post the other day on Kona coffee met with an interesting reaction from a couple of readers who suggested that it was flat-out hypocritical, even insane, to buy coffee at $25.95 a pound and at the same time blog about how to cook frugally and manage food costs.
Now, being called insane is nothing new for me. But I do take umbrage at being called a hypocrite. Therefore, I'd like to use this post to discuss frugality and how we think about it here at Casual Kitchen.
But first, I'd like to put the issue, as I see it, in the form of a broad question to my readers:
Is it possible to enjoy expensive things and yet still be frugal and financially responsible?
For us, the answer is a clear yes--but obviously the expensive things must be done in moderation. But I would love to hear reader thoughts and opinions on this question, especially if you have a view that differs from ours.
Here's how we think about expensive purchases at Casual Kitchen: we actually use expensive purchases to encourage ourselves to be more financially responsible rather than less. Let me explain with some specific examples:
1) We use expensive purchases as a reward for an accomplishment. This works in two ways: we might celebrate large successes (like funding a two-year emergency fund or quitting a crappy job) with a really fancy dinner out, or we might celebrate small successes (like making it through a particularly hard day of work) with a glass of single malt scotch--with the size of the glass depending on the difficulty of the day.
2) If the purchase is a durable good, we usually hesitate a bit and try and make sure it's an item we are likely to use heavily. Then we make sure we buy a high quality item that we are confident will last a long time. That way we are much more likely to get our money's worth out of the purchase.
3) If the purchase is of a service or an experience (e.g. travel, an expensive dinner out, or even fancy Kona coffee), we try never to let it any aspect of it be an afterthought. We try to make these types of purchases carefully and mindfully, so we can maximize our enjoyment of the entire experience.
In my view, the real villain appears when one starts taking the nice things in life for granted. Once you start accelerating on the so-called hedonic treadmill, it gets much harder to manage your spending. Furthermore, a hectic life spent bounding from one fancy experience to another can be surprisingly bereft of mindful, positive experiences. For those of you who are interested in pursuing these issues beyond the realms of food and cooking, I recommend reading Juliet Schor's book The Overspent American.
Readers, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this complicated subject. Do you agree with me? Why or why not?
How to Be a Satisficer
A Simple Way to Beat Rising Food Prices
Cooking Like the Stars? Don't Waste Your Money
Stacked Costs and Second-Order Foods: A New Way to Think About Rising Food Costs
How to Defeat the Retail Industry's Ninja Mind Tricks
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